Angry Workers Picket Seaports, NPA Headquarters Over Ports And Harbours Bill

Port workers under the aegis of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASGOC) NPA Branch yesterday made good their threat to shut down port operations as the nation's seaports were shut down for six hours.
The protest which took place simultaneously at seaports all over the country also held at the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Marina, Lagos.
President General of MWUN; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju who spoke with journalists at the Apapa port said that the workers embarked on the protest to kick against the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill which is currently before the House of Representatives  for concurrence. The Bill had earlier been passed by the Senate.
He said that without consulting with the union, the Bill which was sponsored by Senator Ossai Nicholas Ossai was passed by the Senate.
According to him, the Bill seeks to repeal the NPA Act of 1955 as amended and replace it with Nigerian Ports and Harbour Authority. 
Some of the placards displayed by the angry workers contained message of disenchantment. Some of them read: "Harbour is not for sale", "Maritime workers say no to Port and harbour Bill 2015, “Nigeria not for sale".
Others are: "We say no to privatisation of Harbours operation", "National Assembly stop this bill because it is dangerous to our national security" among others.
Commenting on the negative side of the Bill, Comrade Adeyanju noted that if it is passed into law, it would lead to massive job loss to members of the union as item 6 of the second schedule of the Bill states that not all the staff of the NPA would be absolved into the Harbour Authority. 
He said the purpose of the Bill is to strip workers of their common wealth through further concession of harbour operations in the guise of amending the Port Act of 1955.
"In order words, the Bill would send a large number of Nigerian Ports Authority staff into the labour market including the dockworkers, shipping and seamen"
"Before the bill was passed we were not called upon, we would have dialogued with the government, we are fighting for the right of the workers"
"This is just a warning, it is awareness, it is not a strike, it is just a protest for them to know that we were not carried along in this discussion. If the government wants to do the needful they would call us to a round table to discuss the matter", he stated.
The union leader also noted that the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill does not make provision for who will pay-off the workers that would be sacked once the port is further concessioned.
He also sent a warning to the lawmakers to allow the bill die naturally because it also posts a security risk to the nation at large.
"Remember the recent discovery of a container at the Tin Can Island port, 440 cartons of arms and ammunitions were discovered at the port. We are sending a very strong signal to the authorities that this bill must not see the light of the day"
"Experience has taught us a lesson, when the ports were concessioned eleven years ago, we were told that nobody would lose their job, NPA before concession had 14,000 workers but they were reduced to 3,000, so if this happens again, the NPA would go into extinction because there is going to be a collector agent to the Harbours authority, who would regulate and supervise them and the security of the nation seaport" he said.
Also speaking at the scene of the six-hour protest, President of NPA Senior Staff, Comrade Benson Adegbeyeni said that the lawmakers are being cruel to Nigerian workers who voted them into power.
He said that the Ports and Harbour Authority Bill does not take care of NPA workers who have served all their lives working for the government. He recalled that the same promises were made in 2006 prior to the concession of the ports, but the promises were not fulfilled.
He lamented that the port concession of 2016 has been a failure.
"The lawmakers we voted are trying to short-change the future of Nigerians. The port concession of 2006, government was not sincere with its promise and many workers were thrown into the labour market. The bill does not make provision for those who have spent all their life to work for the NPA"
"We have seen similar situation in Nigeria, NITEL was privatised but today where is NITEL? the same thing happened to NEPA, same thing happened to NPA, the NPA of 10 years ago compared to today is an eye-sore"
"They promised us that with concession the port would work better, but reverse is the case today, the access to the port is also an eye sore" he said.